… don’t say anything at all. How many times did we all hear that growing up? Our natural instinct is to criticize others, to point out their faults and shortcomings, usually while ignoring our own.
“But Mom,” we may have protested, “I was just being honest!”
Truth or Dare? Is it possible to be too honest, or is honesty always the best policy?
When Jesus talked with the Samaritan woman at the well and asked her for a drink of water, she was shocked, because in those days Jews did not associate with Samaritans. Yet the simple request for a drink of water opened a dialogue. See, the Samaritan woman had been married five times before, and she was currently living with a man to whom she was not married. Jesus could have been “honest” and told her that how she was living was wrong; but instead He realized that the deep, aching hole in the woman’s heart, the loneliness that she was trying to fill up with relationships, was actually a longing for God. Jesus told her there was a better way. He said, “… whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst” (John 4:14). Rather than condemning her, Jesus exhibited kindness to her. Rather than shunning her, Jesus engaged with her.
And because of the love and compassion Jesus displayed, this Samaritan woman ran back to town and told everyone else what had happened, and many in her town believed in Jesus because of the woman’s testimony (John 4:39). Would that have happened if Jesus had been “honest” and verbally beaten the Samaritan woman up because of her lifestyle? Would that have happened if Jesus had given her a long lecture about how bad and wrong she was?
Jesus never lied. He acknowledged the Samaritan woman’s situation, but instead of condemning her He showed her a better way.
I think too often we get caught up in the Right vs. Wrong fight, and in the process of “being right” we alienate and cast aside huge numbers of people that we could be helping instead. This isn’t a question about honesty. We are always called to be truthful, not to lie. This, rather, is a question about Love. Jesus told us that the greatest commandment was to “Love the Lord, our God, with all our hearts, souls, and minds,” and He went on to say, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And then He said, “There is no commandment greater than these” (Matt 22:37-40; Mark 12:30-31; Luke 10:27).
It is a very humbling and difficult path to walk, to try and “love others as ourselves,” which means, putting their needs above our own. Some days we just want to cry out, “But I’m right; you’re wrong!” and to give in to pride and to rip our neighbors to shreds. Loving others, however, is not impossible. Sometimes it’s as simple as making a choice about what not to comment on.
Jesus gives us everything we need to carry out His instructions, we must only listen to Him and strive to be obedient.